Collier, J.L. (2008). The Dreadful Revenge of Ernest Gallen. New York: Bloomsbury
U.S.A. Children’s Books.
Set during the Great Depression, The Dreadful Revenge of Ernest Gallen begins with a ghost speaking to the protagonist, Gene. After that, several town members are mysteriously injured or killed and Gene and two of his friends must find out what the adults in their town are keeping secret.
While including some historical references, The Dreadful Revenge of Ernest Gallen feels like a relatively typical ghost mystery. The writing is fair, but Collier does manage to create tension as effectively as R.L. Stine and other authors of supernatural suspense have done previously.
Collier does do a good job of portraying Gene’s reactions to having an absentee father. Issues of class and death are also considered.
There is a brief moment when Gene and one of his friends smoke a cigarette. The scene could trigger discussion on past treatments and views on smoking.
Activities to do with the book:
Teachers could lecture on the Great Depression, searches for oil and gender roles in the 1930s. Also a teacher could initiate a discussion and have students consider the nature of fatherhood and economic classes. This could also lead to some reflective writing as well as discussions of ethics in journalism.
Projects could include creating an edition of the Magnolia Chronicle newspaper, researching the Social Security Act, writing their own ghost stories, etc..
“Oh, I expect I’ll get bigger. I don’t see no harm in that. Get big enough so I don’t have to take stuff from nobody. But I don’t aim on being a grown-up” (p. 11).
“I thought a lot about what it would be like to have a dad. Was that the same as missing him?” (p. 32).
“Well, I don’t guess a kid could ever exactly be on the same wavelength as a grown-up. They had too many different ideas about things” (p. 151).
“Perfect day for baseball, but I was too sore at the world for it. Too sore at the world for delivering groceries, too. The heck with them; they could carry their own groceries” (p. 157).